Sunderland council chiefs offer to pay family's funeral bill after wrong grave dug at cemetery

City bosses offered to pay a family’s funeral bill in full after they turned up to find the wrong grave had been dug.

Wednesday, 19th February 2020, 12:18 pm
Updated Wednesday, 19th February 2020, 2:02 pm
Sunderland Civic Centre

A request had been made for the woman to be buried in the ‘Catholic section’ of the cemetery ‘as close to her parents as possible’, but a plot elsewhere on the site was prepared instead.

The mistake was only noticed on arrival, but according to a report for Sunderland City Council a speedy response council staff meant the burial was able to go ahead later in the day.

“It says ‘internal procedures have now been amended’, but how could that happen in the first place?,” asked Niall Hodson, leader of the council’s opposition Liberal Democrat group.

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The incident came up at a meeting of the council’s Scrutiny Co-ordinating Committee on Thursday, February 13, which examines activities carried out by the council.

A report for councillors following a probe into the error added the council had ‘immediately offered to pay for the funeral invoice in full’ and offered an apology.

The report did not specify which cemetery the incident involved.

“The burial [had taken] place about two and a half hours earlier, so the council pulled out all the stops to sort that,” said Marie Johnston, the council’s complaints manager.

“Often funeral directors will request a Church of England plot, for example, to get a burial date, but then when they speak to the family something may have to change and that’s where there was an oversight.”